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BOSTON -- On May 17, CatholicTV broadcasted a Mass in honor of the over 3,000 students graduating from the 29 Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Boston who are unable to have in-person commencement ceremonies due to restrictions during the pandemic.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was the main celebrant of the Mass, which took place at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The lectors were two seniors from the Cathedral High School, Joausto Carvalho Teixeira and Fatima Caceres, who represented their graduating class.
The gospel reading during the Mass was the parable of the Good Samaritan. In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley spoke at length about kindness, generosity, interdependence, and community.
Addressing the Catholic high school graduates, he said, "Your education is a gift to you that represents the sacrifices of your parents and generations of Catholic religious and teachers and many benefactors who have made your education possible."
He encouraged them to "never forget the love and the sacrifices of so many people that have made this possible, and remember that the time is coming for you to give back, to make a difference in the lives of others by your sacrifices and gratuitous acts of generosity and kindness."
Cardinal O'Malley also spoke about how faith "reveals to us our connectedness with God and with each other."
"The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that love of God and love of neighbor are the pillars of our religion, and these loves must define who we are, motivate our actions and inform our decisions. If we turn our back to suffering humanity, we're turning our back on God," he said.
Finally, he spoke about the word "commencement," which means "beginning."
"Your life after graduation, in many ways, is a new beginning. You're making this new beginning at a time of great uncertainty and confusion, but hopefully, the ideals and the values nurtured by your Catholic faith will lend you the courage and the wisdom you need for the decisions that lie ahead," the cardinal said.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the archdiocese's Superintendent of Schools Thomas Carroll offered remarks to the graduates, as well.
"Today's graduates inspire us that -- when this pandemic is all over -- our future is in good hands," Carroll said.
He offered the graduates three pieces of advice: "No matter your path, remember always: your parents' sacrifices; who you are; and perhaps most importantly whose you are. Always leave room for God in your life."
Catholic high school leaders expressed their gratitude for the event in statements released prior to the broadcast.
"For so many families, coming together for a Baccalaureate Mass is a rite of passage; it represents the culmination of years of high school dedication, triumphs, challenges, and ultimately of accomplishment and pride. For our students at Cathedral (High School), while we hope this celebratory Mass helps encapsulate their high school career, we also hope that they experience it as a launching pad for their never-ending journey as disciples of God," said Dan Carmody, head of Cathedral High School.
"We're grateful to Cardinal O'Malley, and the Archdiocese of Boston, for prioritizing this occasion for our students during such a challenging time. Our high school seniors represent the future leadership of our city, country and world -- it's fitting that we send them off in prayer," Carmody added.
Dennis M. Duggan, Jr., president of Archbishop Williams High School, said his school's baccalaureate liturgy usually takes place the evening before commencement and concludes with the blessing of alumni pins, which are presented to the graduates in a receiving line of all alumni in attendance. Due to the current restrictions on public gatherings, the graduating students will not be able to have this rite of passage.
"I'm confident that they will take comfort in this opportunity to gather virtually to reflect on their years together and to contemplate their commencement along with other, similarly situated Boston-area Catholic school graduates," Duggan said.